The Nigeria Customs Services (NCS) on Thursday offered explanation to the 2015 audit report which raised a query to NCS over non remittance of five per cent pension redemption bond of its employees.
The Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (OAGF) had in its 2015 audit report of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), presented to senate raised a query to NCS as follows:
The query according to Auditor General for the Federation, Mr Anthony Ayine had read:
“On non compliance to provision of Pension Act 2014 retirement benefit redemption bond.
“During the examination of retirement pension redemption fund, it was also noted that the Nigeria Customs Service and Federal Inland Revenue Service were not contributing five cent monthly wage bill of their employees’ fund contrarily to section 39 sub section 2.
“These two organisations ought to contribute five per cent monthly wage bill of their employees since their personnel cost does not fall part of the normal budget.
“The non contribution by these organisations is in violation of the Pension Reform Act. 2014,” Ayine said.
The query arose during the public hearing of the 2015 audited accounts of federal government agencies organised by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts
Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Matthew Urhoghide (PDP- Edo) raised a concern over
the failure of NCS to remit five per cent retirement bond of its employees as indicated in the audit report of 2015.
He said the refusal of the Customs leadership to abide by the constitutional provisions of the Pension Act, with regard to the pension of personnel simply implied that the retirees of the service had not been receiving their pensions.
Also speaking, Sen. Ibrahim Oloriegbe (APC-Kwara), said that the money should have been remitted to the National Pension Commission (PenCom) given the payment of staff monthly salary by NCS.
Oloriegbe lamented that a revenue generating agency such as NCS should have no reason to fail to remit the five per cent pension retirement bond of staff wages to PenCom.
He urged NCS authority to look for where to raise money to remit the five per cent to PenCom.
Responding to the query, the Comptroller-General of NCS, Retd. Col. Hameed Ali, explained that the NCS had been facing the challenge of insufficient fund.
He said the paucity of fund to the service explained why the service could not remit the five per cent pension redemption bond of its employees.
Ali said that the seven per cent collection costs which the NCS deducted from revenue generated had not been enough to settle the personnel costs of staff members.
According to him, when he took over as the Head of Customs, the agency depended on bailout to carry out its operations.
He said it was not until President Muhammadu Buhari approved its inclusion in the Consolidated Salary Structure (CSS) that the NCS began to offset some of its financial commitments.
He explained that while the fund for salary of staff members was being deducted directly from the seven per cent commission, that of pension redemption bond was not directly deducted.
He, however, assured the senate that with the inclusion of Customs into the CSS of the federal government, the service would be able to commence remittances of backlog of the five per cent to PenCom.
He said the seven per cent commission which it deducted from revenue collections was never enough.
He added that it would not be wise to remove five per cent from the seven per cent commission and pay as pension, given that the remaining two per cent would not be enough to pay workers salary.
Responding also to the query of non remittances of its revenue collections by the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), the Customs boss expressed surprise over the query.
He said he was just getting to hear of the query given that NCS collections and remittances had been automated since 2015, hence the issue of under remittances could not have arisen.
On the N4.5 billion loan to the Customs, which was given to them as loan from the N37 billion special fund for local production of rice, he said he was just hearing about the loan for the first time.
Although he said it could be part of the bailout out fund given to NCS by the government he, however, insisted that the NCS did not have any record of any loan from anybody. (NAN)